Out there

The world loves coffee as a flavour. Does it work when your red wine – in this case, pinotage – takes on those smoky, mocha notes? We did the tastebud test for TOPS at SPAR.

Panel: Travel and drinks writer Clifford Roberts, radio broadcaster and Susan Stanleys brand ambassador Guy McDonald, wine influencer Elvina Fortuin (@throughmywinegl), former Country Life wine writer Greg Landman, CHEERS magazine’s Dee Griffin and Fiona McDonald.

If it lays claim to coffee or chocolate on the label, it needs to be boldly so was the general consensus after tasting a small representative sample of the category of coffee pinotage.

“It needs to be ramped up – I was expecting more,” Elvina Fortuin pronounced after having tasted through the line-up of wines. “Yeah, agreed,” said both Clifford Roberts and Guy McDonald. She posed the question of whether tasting the wines together possibly did them a disservice. “If we tasted them against straight pinotage, for example, would they perhaps have stood out more or displayed more of that mocha character that we were anticipating?”

Adding perspective were the two older hands on the panel, Landman and McDonald who both remember the birth of the category less than two decades ago. “That first coffee pinotage from Diemersfontein was unmistakeably coffee,” said Greg. “It was bold and pungent – like a smack in the chops!”

They both also recalled the instant clamour for the wine which in turn prompted a backlash from pinotage purists. “Perhaps that’s why that vivid mocha/choc/coffee flavour was not as pronounced as it used to be in years gone by,” mused Fiona, noting that all the examples tasted had been reigned in and dialled down over the past few years.

The points were made that these wines definitely have a place in the pantheon of wine; that consumers really enjoy the approachability of the flavours and the lack of pretence or perceived snob value, the sheer drinkability factor but also the fact that they work well as both red wines and also as pinotages.

“Any number of these I would happily buy and smash alongside a pizza or a braai,” was Clifford’s summation. Both Greg and Guy said the Diemersfontein remains the category leader, even if it’s less bold than it used to be. “It remains a very good red wine, one that can happily even be cellared for a few years or brought out at a dinner party to accompany a hearty, meaty dish,” Greg said.

Boland Cappupino ccinotage 2021

A tongue twister of a label if ever there was one! The wine showed deep spice, sour cherry, plum and a light coffee bean note. Nicely succulent with approachable blueberry flavour and medium body.

Clos Malverne Le Café pinotage 2020 

Ripe, chocolate and fruit aromas and flavours. A touch sweet in the mouth but with an earthy, dark plum richness and really good concentration to balance it. Lovely length of flavour Fiona noted.

Arabica Coffee pinotage 2019

“Discreetly coffee,” was how Greg put it, “smooth and lighter bodied.” Appealing raspberry succulence over a supple frame. Easy to like and very approachable.

Van Loveren African Java pinotage 2021

Maple syrup and unroasted coffee beans with ripe red and black fruit on both the nose and palate. Guy said his brain was making all the right noises about enjoying this, so he ended up swallowing instead of spitting! “But isn’t that a good thing? It just screams Drink Me!” Really friendly and likeable.

Doolhof Dark Lady pinotage 2021

Black cherry and blueberries with ripe juicy plums and a shy coffee character. Very engaging with its juiciness and light body. A slight tannin grip was noticeable on this wine but didn’t detract from the enjoyment.

Jakkalsvlei pinotage 2020

Youngberry, raspberry and a touch of earthy cocoa powder on the nose and in the mouth. Fresh and juicy with typical acidity but well balanced. A gentle, comforting wine that feels like a good friend.

Diemersfontein The Original pinotage 2020 

Roasting coffee bean smoke, cocoa powder, deep and alluring aromas. Rounded, voluptuous body with silky mouthfeel and more of the mocha flavour. Rich, balanced and layered with good concentration and length. As Elvina put it: “Aaaahhh … the coffee pinotage angels have sung!”